Astros, by George, even World Series
LOS ANGELES — The Houston Astros had every reason to lose trust in George Springer. They had every reason to feel doom trailing in the late innings against perhaps the best closer in baseball.
Call this Houston team a testament to faith as it stayed the course Wednesday, rallied to force extra innings and ultimately evened the World Series with a wild 7-6 victory in 11 innings over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Springer’s two-run home run in the top of the 11th inning off Brandon McCarthy (0-1) proved to be the game-winner.
It was a dramatic Game 2 as the teams combined to score nine of the 13 total runs from the eighth inning on, with seven runs in extra innings. Six home runs were hit from the ninth inning on, with five coming in extra innings.
Los Angeles’ Charlie Culberson made it close with a solo home run off Astros right-hander Chris Devenski in the bottom of the 11th, but Devenski (1-0) struck out Yasiel Puig to end it.
Springer’s key blast came one night after he struck out four times in Game 1. Before Game 2, Astros manager A.J. Hinch insisted that Springer was fine and that he was not removing his star from the leadoff spot. The home run was one of Springer’s three hits.
“For him to have my back and say that, ‘Hey, you’re still going to hit first, and you’re still going to set the tone for us,’ it slowed me down,” Springer said. “It meant the world to me, and I will always have his back. That just shows who he is.”
Trust goes a long way, and a trust in the process is what the Astros appeared to have despite being down 3-1 in the eighth inning against a Dodgers bullpen that had appeared invincible in the postseason.
In the eighth inning, Alex Bregman hit a leadoff double against Brandon Morrow that just tipped off the glove of Puig in right. One out later, Correa delivered an RBI single off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to get Houston within a run. The hit ended the Los Angeles bullpen’s playoff-record 28 consecutive postseason innings without giving up a run.
Marwin Gonzalez homered off Jansen leading off the ninth to tie it 3-3.
The dramatics were only getting started.
In the 10th, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa both went deep against Los Angeles right-hander Josh Fields, who failed to record an out. The Dodgers scored their two runs in the 10th off Astros closer Ken Giles when Puig hit a home run and Enrique Hernandez delivered a two-out RBI single.
“That’s an incredible game on so any levels, so many ranges of emotion,” Hinch said. “If you like October baseball, if you like any kind of baseball, that’s one of the most incredible games you’ll ever be a part of.”
Springer’s home run came on a 2-1 slider from McCarthy, who was making his World Series debut.
The series shifts Friday to Houston, which will be the site of the next three games.
The victory was the Astros’ first in the World Series in six tries. They were swept in 2005 by the Chicago White Sox and lost Game 1 to the Dodgers 3-1 on Tuesday.
Jansen had never blown a save attempt in 12 previous postseason tries. Called on for the six-out save, he wobbled just enough for the Astros to pounce. The Dodgers had not lost a game all season when they led in the ninth inning, although they had twice been tied only to rally back for the victory.
“Honestly, it was an exciting baseball game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It was an emotional roller coaster. There were some big plays defensively, some big pitches made and obviously some big hits, some big homers.
“Our focus was there and the guys were playing hard ... on both sides. Unfortunately, we came up short. We didn’t expect these guys to lay down.”
Coreg Seager gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead when he hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning off Astros starter Justin Verlander. It was one of two hits Verlander allowed over six innings, but both were home runs.
Verlander was seen in the late innings coming in and out of the dugout to offer inspiration to his teammates.
“For everything to be going right tonight for the Dodgers, leading late with their bullpen, and for us to come back and win that game, that’s a game-changer, that’s huge,” Verlander said. “That’s why I love this team. There is no quit. Top to bottom in the lineup, anybody can win a game at any time.”
Dodgers starter Rich Hill went only four innings, throwing 60 pitches in the process. He gave up a run on three third-inning hits while striking out seven. Former starter Kenta Maeda followed Hill with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Dodgers then went to left-hander Tony Watson and right-hander Ross Stripling (one batter each) before Morrow handed it off to Jansen.
Joc Pederson, a surprise starter in left field for the Dodgers, not only tied the game with one swing in the fifth inning, but he also delivered the first hit off Verlander. Pederson had played only four games in left field this season and six games there in his entire four-year career.
The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the opening inning on an RBI single from Bregman.
Of the previous 58 times the World Series was tied 1-1, the winner of Game 2 captured the title on 30 occasions.
“I almost fainted, I think, three times. I’m not joking,” Verlander said about the epic back-and-forth affair. “I was cheering so loudly, I had to take a minute to recompose myself so I didn’t pass out.”
NOTES: Before Game 2, Astros 2B Jose Altuve was named the AL’s winner of the Hank Aaron Award as the most outstanding offensive player in his league. The NL Hank Aaron Award went to Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton. ... Astros manager A.J. Hinch announced his upcoming starters, saying RHP Lance McCullers would get the ball in Game 3 and RHP Charlie Morton would start in Game 4. ... The Dodgers have already lined up their rotation for Houston, with RHP Yu Darvish pitching in Game 3 and LHP Alex Wood getting the ball in Game 4. ... Dodgers OF Joc Pederson has two postseason home runs, his game-tying shot in Game 2 on Wednesday and one in the Dodgers’ Game 5 clincher of the NL Division Series last season at Washington.